Breakthrough drug nivolumab now available to UK lung cancer patients

Breakthrough drug nivolumab now available to UK lung cancer patients
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Thaiview

Lung cancer patients in England can now be prescribed breakthrough drug nivolumab after NICE said it should be available through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

Around 1,300 lung cancer patients will receive nivolumab as part of a CDF deal put forward by makers Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Nivolumab – also known as Opdivo – has been widely described as a breakthrough drug.

When NICE first reviewed it, they said the evidence was not strong enough to recommend nivolumab for routine NHS use.

However, as nivolumab appeared to be more effective in some patients, NICE asked BMS to make it available with a discount whilst clinical trials were ongoing.

In November 2016, two patients submitted petitions with a total of 270,000 signatures urging NICE to approve the drug.

Nivolumab works by targeting a protein on the surface of cells. This protein, called PD-L1, is involved in the body’s immune response to cancer.

Nivolumab appears to work better in people who have more PD-L1 on their cancer cells.

Nivolumab will now be immediately available to some people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer if they have already been treated with chemotherapy.

It is given intravenously in hospital every two weeks.